The soul of the sport is under threat

MONTPELLIER, France – Professional rugby is taking such a terrible physical and mental toll on the players, shortening careers and leaving a lifelong legacy of disability, that the soul of the sport is under threat, the head of the French players’ union has warned.

Player welfare has again been under scrutiny after it was revealed that former All Black Dan Carter played the French Top 14 final for Racing Metro after receiving an injection of corticoids — a legal steroid used to treat inflammation.

Carter said he had the injections after suffering a knee issue in the semi-final. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by the French federation but Montpellier lock Robins Tchale Watchou, the president of the French players’ union, believes it set a bad example.

“If today, taking corticoids, albeit legally, triggers so many questions, it means there is a problem. Refusing to talk about it would be a massive strategic mistake. Do we need it? Can we continue like this?,” Tchale Watchou told Reuters at his home in Montpellier.

“He took something legally but is it necessary? That’s where the debate lies.”

The Carter case is an illustration of the wider problem in top-level rugby, where players are doing all they can to piece their battered bodies together week after week.

“Rugby used to prepare men, it now makes machines,” Tchale Watchou said.

“Players are being used like scrap. The human side of the sport was key, it was at the centre of everything. If we lose that, what’s the point?”

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